In times past, when people were forbidden to express their opinion or beliefs publicly, or it was considered rude to let your true feelings be known, a painting or a sculpture was a suitable medium in which an artist could hide a message.
Many of these messages were often political, moral, or based on religious allegories. However, some of them had a purely amusing character – the artist’s way of having some fun and leaving his personal mark on the canvas. All throughout history, especially in the middle ages and the Renaissance, famous artists have placed hidden meanings within their works of art. Here is a selection of some of the most intriguing hidden messages in a collection of paintings from the rich history of art.
1 Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper is one of his most discussed works of art amongst conspiracy theorists who regularly find hidden codes in his work. It turns out that the “Last Supper” is full of secret codes and meanings. We’re not talking here about the cryptograms that, according to Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, hold the secrets of Jesus’s later life, or about the allegations that a hidden mathematical and astrological code within the painting reveals the day when the end of the world will begin (which, by the way, is March 21, 4006).
Along with all of the codes, Leonardo seems to have left us some music too – something like a graphic representation of the sounds of his age. At first glance, the way the bread rolls are scattered across the table don’t appear to reveal anything mysterious, and you’d have to spend a lot of time and imaginative energy on them to come up with anything approaching a hidden message.
However, several years ago, an Italian computer technician called Giovanni Maria Pala did exactly this and found something fascinating – a music sheet left by Da Vinci himself. If the five lines of a musical staff are drawn on the table of the Last Supper, then each bread roll in combination with the hands of the Apostles corresponds with a certain musical note.
When the notes are read from right to left (the way Da Vinci wrote), the combination of notes transforms into a 40-second long composition that sounds like a requiem. Of course, there is always a chance that this is pure coincidence, but the fact is the compositions sound very harmonious when played. Researchers also know that besides being a painter, Da Vinci was also an excellent musician and inventor.
2 Michelangelo, Separation of Light from Darkness, the Sistine, Chapel Ceiling
This next secret message appears in the work of another Renaissance artist, a famous contemporary of Da Vinci called Michelangelo. Among his most notable pieces of art is his massive painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This huge masterpiece is divided into nine segments, and each of them tells a different story from the Book of Genesis.
Michelangelo was obviously a genius and a true renaissance man: a painter, a sculptor, an architect, and, among other things, an expert in human anatomy. We know this because of his sculptures and because he managed to hide a few anatomical elements in his paintings. As a young man, Michelangelo used to dissect corpses from the graveyard, and during this rather gruesome period in his life, he learned a lot about the human body.
Besides the notes he made, he hid parts of his knowledge in some of the segments on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. For example, if we take a careful look at the segment called “Separation of Light from Darkness” we see that the neck and chin of God resembles the image of a human brain.
So why did Michelangelo hide anatomical sketches inside his art? More and more theorists believe that this was Michelangelo’s protest against the church’s refusal to accept scientific fact.